‘Maxxx’ Review: The Saddest Man of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Made a Wild Comedy Series About Pop Music

     July 30, 2020

maxxx-o-t-fagbenle-01-sliceIf you had the chance to make a six-episode TV show, about whatever you wanted, what would you do? It’s not necessarily an easy question, but one thing’s for sure: The answer probably says a lot about you as a person. And that’s a big factor in what makes O-T Fagbenle‘s Maxxx, a Channel 4 production which just premiered in the U.S. on Hulu, so fascinating.

A spiritual cousin to projects like Turn Up Charlie and Popstar: Never Stop Popping, Maxxx features Fagbenle as a one-time boybander whose career has descended into has-been territory since abandoning his bandmates for a solo career, and his hedonistic tendencies have only escalated since a painful break-up with supermodel Jourdan (Jourdan Dunn).

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Image via Hulu

However, with the support of his new manager Tamzin (Pippa Bennett-Warner), adopted son Amit (Alan Asaad), obsessed cousin/PA Rose (Helen Monks), and some harsh love from record label owner Don Wild (Christopher Meloni), Maxxx has a second chance at a real career. But the path isn’t the easiest, given the bridges that Maxxx has already burned, and whether it be a funeral, a house party, or a live charity concert, Maxxx’s potential for self-destruction is always waiting in the wings for an opportunity to pounce.

What’s fascinating about this six-episode first season is the fact that there’s no question who’s behind this show — it is 100 percent the brainchild of Fagbenle — and while he’s occasionally unable to escape the temptation of a crazy subplot or heightened dramatic device, it’s actually a pretty focused character study underneath the surface. Fagbenle is likely best known at this point (especially to Hulu subscribers) as Luke, the forever loyal husband of June (Elisabeth Moss) on The Handmaid’s Tale, but he’s been a hard-working actor for well over a decade, with supporting roles in shows including quarterlife, Looking, Happy Endings, and more. While his career has granted him the opportunity to show a lot of range, Maxxx — which he also writes and directs — is a singular showcase for his ability to craft a character whose latent absurdities don’t undercut his baseline humanity.

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Image via Hulu

Maxxx‘s supporting cast benefits from having sharply drawn characters to play, and these six episodes don’t just establish them as tropes but take them on journeys. Tamzin’s Type A anal-retentive vibe (she at one point proudly declares that she has an “alpha uterus”) makes her a perfect foil for Maxxx, while Amit draws out Maxxx’s more human side while also having his own ongoing subplot involving a very cute first crush. And oh, if you miss the chaotic energy of the dearly departed Syfy series Happy, Christopher Meloni is here to deliver a slightly less polished but no less untamed performance. It’s fun to imagine what, if anything, Meloni might say no to doing. Based on what happens in Maxxx, it really can’t be that long a list.

Maxxx is far from a subtle show — let’s be clear, Christopher Meloni plays a character named Don Wild and that is the very least wild thing about him — but the balls-out humor and breezy pace of the episodes make it a relatively quick, light binge. Plus, the surprisingly catchy songs will get stuck in your head in a more-than-pleasant way, which is always such a key ingredient to shows like this. After all, if you don’t buy that a pop star has any actual musical talent, a show like this might fall apart.

With the state of production being what it is right now, who knows when we’ll next see Fagbenle as Luke, waging war against the oppression of Gilead. But in the meantime, Maxxx serves as the TV equivalent of a summer beach read, as well as delightful proof of Fagbenle’s wide range of talents — this is the show he wanted to make, and it’s good silly fun. At this moment in time, that’s very, very welcome.

Grade: B+

Maxxx is streaming now on Hulu.

Television